What is the GRTS Vision? Reflections on 30 years of theological education (Part 3 of 3)

By David Turner on April 11, 2018

Editor's Note: We are celebrating Dr. David Turner's 32 years of ministry in the Bible department at GRTS. We asked him to reflect on his time here and to offer a parting word for students, alumni and colleagues. This is the third of three posts. Here is part 1 and part 2.

Vision: Where are we going?

I've reflected on the identity and constituency of GRTS in two previous posts. It's also critically important to ponder how these matters play into a vision for the future.

President Stowell has officially announced that his transition from president to chancellor of Cornerstone University will occur in May 2019. The entire CU community, including GRTS, needs to unite in prayer for the board of trustees as they begin the search process for our next president. Great wisdom is needed in making this choice. Cornerstone University is a family of five educational ministries: a traditional undergrad program, a graduate theological seminary, a cohort-based school of professional and graduate studies, a multi-site seminary centered in Thailand and a well-known Christian radio station. The next Cornerstone president will need to understand and embrace each part of this multi-faceted institution.

From the standpoint of GRTS, it is vital that the next president of CU be a person who gets seminary education, or at least gets that they don't get it. Programs envisioned and enacted a decade ago under the leadership of Doug Fagerstrom and John VerBerkmoes have greatly enriched the school and its constituents, but fresh initiatives are needed. The current leaders of GRTS are richly gifted and totally committed to the school's future, but they wear multiple hats at the university. They wear all these hats very well, but as I've shared with them personally, the current administrative structure hinders the kind of focus GRTS needs going forward. GRTS needs a visionary leader who can focus on the seminary's current needs and dream about its future. These days are crucial for GRTS for several reasons, including the following:

  • The nationally-rated M.A. in Counseling program is growing, largely due to a new online modality. With recently added faculty members, the program is working on applying for professional accreditation with the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling-Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Wisdom is needed for decisions related to this process and what it will mean for the future of the program.

  • The M.Div. program is steady but not growing. Tuition costs for this 90+ credit-hour program reach nearly $50,000. Two years ago, we launched a new scholarship program, the Pirsig Fellowship led by Darrell Yoder, to help lighten this financial load for some students and provide a cohort experience in the M.Div. But more is needed to make the M.Div. program more affordable and sustainable. GRTS's best program for those who are called to be teaching pastors is often too expensive for students of modest means who wisely do not wish to incur excessive debt.

  • In partnership with the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, the Urban Church Leadership Center launched in the GRTS building under the direction of GRTS alumnus Julian Guzman. This bilingual initiative provides a place where urban pastors can come for fellowship, support and continuing education. In turn, the GRTS community will be enriched by the wisdom and experience of those who participate in the center. Hopefully, many who are helped by the center will enroll in programs at GRTS.

  • The Talking Points seminar series and the Talking Points blog under Darrell Yoder's capable leadership are two effective ways GRTS is communicating its identity and vision to its alumni/ae and other stakeholders. As the cost of theological education rises and the pool of potential students in Midwestern USA shrinks, GRTS' relationship with its graduates is more important than ever. As God has enabled, GRTS has a history of serving its students well, but this service has tended to end at graduation. GRTS needs to commit to its students for their lifetimes, not just their time on campus. Ongoing service to this group is key to developing a wider constituency.

When I originally came to GRTS, a high berm pierced by a rather narrow entrance separated the CU campus from the East Beltline. The berm was apparently installed to ensure the tranquility of the campus, shielding it from the noise of the heavy traffic rushing by on the East Beltline. There was no guard or gate at the entrance, but some saw the berm as symbolic of the school's desire to be separate from the community that surrounded it. During Dr. Rex Rogers' presidency, the berm was nearly leveled, and the main entrance to campus was moved south and considerably widened. Later, the view of campus from the Beltline was enhanced all the more by the clock tower honoring Dr. Wilbert W. Welch. More recently, during Dr. Stowell's presidency, Christ Chapel and its magnificent stained glass windows, depicting the life and ministry of Christ, continues this welcoming, outward movement. Perhaps these architectural developments "on the other side of the pond" symbolize the developments in the identity, constituency and vision of GRTS. Over the last 30 years, the identity of the school, in terms of its core beliefs and educational values, has remained the same. What has changed is the school's vision, which has become less myopic and more welcoming to a wider constituency.

Sign at the entrance of Cornerstone University Cornerstone University's clock tower Exterior of Cornerstone University's Christ Chapel

May the Lord Jesus continue to use GRTS as he builds his worldwide church from every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and may GRTS bring glory to God in response to the Spirit's leading by envisioning new ways to serve a wider constituency of Jesus-followers who are normed and reformed by the Word of God.

Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei. Soli Deo gloria.

Categories: Culture, Discipleship, Faculty & Staff